Companies using social media have long had reason to fear the risks of social media, but individuals often face similar risks. Most notably, copyright protection under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) allows content producers to uphold their copyright against infringers on the Web, leading to the removal of countless blog posts and YouTube videos.

However, one prominent Internet company has decided to fight back. Automattic, which owns popular blogging site, announced on Nov. 21 that it has filed two lawsuits, alleging that two of its hosted blogs were victims of improper DMCA takedown notices.

The DMCA is usually used against sites like those Automattic backs, but as the company notes in its release, Section 512(f) of the DMCA protects against “Any person who knowingly materially misrepresents under this section — (1) that material or activity is infringing, or (2) that material or activity was removed or disabled by mistake or misidentification.” In this case, the alleged infringer holds the right to damages.

“Until there are some teeth to the copyright laws, it’s up to us – websites and users, together – to stand up to DMCA fraud and protect freedom of expression,” Automattic said in its announcement. “Through these suits, we’d like to remind our users that we’re doing all we can to combat DMCA abuse on….and most importantly, remind copyright abusers to think twice before submitting fraudulent takedown notices.”

In one case, the blog “Retraction Watch” published a critique of a scientific paper that the authors believed did not hold up to scientific standards. According to Automattic, one reader disagreed with the critique, and then copied parts of the critique to his own website and served Retraction Watch a DMCA takedown notice.

In the other case, U.K. student journalist Oliver Hotham used his blog to publish investigative articles. Automattic says one of his sources for a piece had second thoughts about the quote he gave and turned to copyright law to have the piece censored.

Automattic claims that its end goal in this situation isn’t only litigation; the company will also attempt to lobby lawmakers to change the laws on the books. “We’ll also be actively involved, on behalf of our users, in trying to change the law – both through court cases and in Congress – to make sure that everyone has the right to share their voice on the Internet without threat of censorship,” the company said.”


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